Study: Violent games lead to drug, alcohol abuse

Researchers conclude "violent" games foster more "permissive attitudes" toward drugs, alcohol, and sex.

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Anti-game activists got another bit of ammunition today, courtesy of a study published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The study, which was jointly conducted by San Francisco- and Pittsburgh-based researchers, came to the conclusion that playing violent video games leads to "permissive attitudes toward violence, alcohol use, marijuana use, and sexual activity without condom use."

The study, titled "Effects of Media Violence on Health-Related Outcomes Among Young Men," was based on a sampling of 100 male undergraduate students aged 18 to 21 years. It randomly assigned the subjects to play one of two video games--VU Games' The Simpsons: Hit & Run and Grand Theft Auto III. Subjects were selected so that the test group would have "differing amounts of lifetime home and community violence."

The study's conclusions? "Men randomly assigned to play Grand Theft Auto III exhibited greater increases in diastolic blood pressure from a baseline rest period to game play, greater negative affect, more permissive attitudes toward using alcohol and marijuana, and more uncooperative behavior in comparison with men randomly assigned to play The Simpsons," read the report.

It stated that specifically "only among participants with greater exposure to home and community violence, play of Grand Theft Auto III led to elevated systolic blood pressure in comparison with play of The Simpsons." The report continuted, "Although youth growing up in violent homes and communities may become more physiologically aroused by media violence exposure, all youth appear to be at risk for potentially negative outcomes."

The report ran in the same issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine as an article that assesed the rating scheme of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). Titled "Content and Ratings of Mature-Rated Video Games," the study gave a mixed report card to the ESRB.

"Although the Entertainment Software Rating Board content descriptors for violence and blood provide a good indication of such content in the game, we identified 45 observations of content that could warrant a content descriptor in 29 games (81 percent) that lacked these content descriptors," read the report.

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